The Americas

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.

Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:

  • 110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
  • Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
  • 50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed

If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.

Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.

Here's what it was like...

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Neglect in a time of note-worthy experiences

I call myself a writer, but I haven't written - really written - in two months. Since my last real musing, I traveled to three regions of Haiti, frequented my second Carnival celebration, had a random reunion with a travel friend in the middle of a street parade, hosted my best friend and travel gal for a week in New York City, and traveled across the world to Thailand for production. I should have many a post on my site by now regarding all the previously mentioned events and experiences. Instead, I am a chicken sans head with too many things to say and not enough time to process them. And you know what else is sad? I wrote the previous paragraph in the middle of March. I call this type of article a 'Frankenstein'.

I've read others discussing this interesting phenomenon - the travel writer's Catch 22 - and I know I've dealt with it using various methods in the past. Even though I've been based out of home between these escapades, there is still the delicate balance between experience and reflection, one that I usually miss due to overindulgence of one.

Sadly, my mind is a sieve. Without documentation and over-processing of real-life experiences, I tend to forget or reconstruct my life. Therefore, the neglect of noting certain meaningful experiences seems dangerous and irresponsible for someone mortal wanting simply to thrive on memories in the end.

Why Write About Travel?

It began as a way to inform my family I was still alive. Once they gained this comfort, the detailed accounts were meant to illuminate a black hole on the world map of one's understanding. Soon after, it became a job and then a way of life through which I felt fulfillment. While documentary photo and video work easily allow for simultaneous experience, I write the way the Social Network dudes code: plugged in with total concentration and all-consuming fervor. After the arc of adrenaline subsides in a travel day, it's all I can do to charge up the batteries and coordinate logistics for the next day. Writing in the moment hasn't been a real possibility since my 7-month discovery tour.

Upon returning home, the act of processing begins involuntarily through dreams - brutally honest reactions that make for sturdy foundations later. Of course, errands to the laundromat, outings with friends, job applications, and other life logistics eventually take precedence over mental fermentation and readiness. And so, what's left from a life-changing "away game" is a brain of floating and incomplete thoughts like a bowl of Alpha-bits.

In January, my friend Jazmine departed on a two month journey throughout Southeast Asia. Aside from recommending the occasional splurge during her budget initiative, my one adamant piece of advice was to write. Especially on a whirlwind adventure, sometimes it's only in the observation of a blinking cursor on a word document that we realize the confusion of our interior. And alternately, scribbled sentences on mounting scraps of paper are the necessary mastication of the experiential piece of gum. In my opinion, there's no better way for anyone to savor that flavor, and this isn't just for those who consider themselves capable crafters of written word.

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo

The Bottleneck Effect

I'm passionate about writing relevant and satirical travel narratives, and these such stories are exactly what have been lacking in my recent blogging pursuits. Instead, when people inevitably ask about Haiti or Thailand, I have to use words like "amazing" or "incredible," as though that really demystifies the destination for them. Writers should have distinct voices, based on objective truths, unique observation, and subjective viewpoints on humanity. To call Haiti an incredible experience is like saying Mariah Carey is a good singer. Thailand is a beautiful country with kind people. Earth is a planet with land and water. That's all hot air. I'm looking to add insight to the sea of declarative sentences born and syndicated every day.

The goal: document experiences uniquely and dynamically The reality: confusion, sloppy schedules, and a mere 24 hours taunting me in the day The problem: time brings new experiences whether or not I'm ready The solution: force thoughts to make a single file line outward, all with purpose

Imagine the wiggly line as my pool of thoughts, the fish-eyed text as concepts to ponder, and the bottleneck as my avenues of expression restricted by time, ability, and external factors. This isn't adult swim when the kids are back at school; this is noon at the public watering hole on July 4th. These thoughts aren't conscientious swimmers. They all need to get out of the pool safely or else they start pruning and eventually peeing in this uncertain limbo.

The Token Freudian Analysis

I hope by now the irony of this post has hit you. Am I not still treading water with this time and energy to vocalize the fact that I haven't vocalized my thoughts in a while? Why share this when I could obviously be sharing what I aim to produce? And why has this venue of blogging to the world wide web become so darn important to the sanity of man?

Even though life is a constant linear chain of experiences, the mind doesn't necessarily process them as such. And even though traveling seems like an itinerary of visits, challenges, and conversations, the entire concept of 'travel' is far more existential an arena of thought than it is a modification of geography. If I don't dedicate time and energy to sorting through what transpires in my life - big or small - I run the risk of disconnecting unconscious interpretations of superego standards from conscious actions of the ego. Translate the previous sentence with a couple of Freud's favorites:

Ego: the part of the personality which maintains a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (superego)

Unconscious: the area of the psyche where unknown wishes and needs are kept that play a significant role in our conscious behavior

Subconscious: that which exists in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness*

It's like stepping over the question repeatedly, multiple times a day, every day, "What is this life I lead?" Are we - dare I say - robots that power forward with the sequence or humans that react to the varied stimuli we encounter daily, especially on the road. I say leave your robot on the dance floor. Experiences are had to be felt and purposefully utilized to make a person better.

The Selfish Act of Not Sharing

The liquid inside a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino doesn't motivate or fulfill a person's palate. Once it passes through the aerator and clashes with fresh oxygen, that sweet nectar becomes something of value. A book in Hungarian means nothing to me until it is translated into something Latin-based I can recognize. Unless an experience runs through the necessary steps to become useable to a person, it is a waste, a missed opportunity, a neglected tool for burrowing efficiently and successfully through time. It is only in this translation through the sieve of human standards and emotion that an understanding can pass through the nonconscience to the subconscience to reach the active, living conscience.

In non-Freudian terms, going somewhere or doing something means nothing if you don't understand how it affected you.

So when I say I haven't really written in months, it means I haven't actively processed that which has the great capacity to improve my being, including: • traveling through Haiti's Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and cultural Jacmel. • meeting President-elect Michel Martelly (candidate at the time). • attending my second Carnival celebration in a country pent up after a year of recovery. • randomly running into a woman that saved me years before around the world. • hosting my best travel comrade, Alexis Reller, in New York City. • spending three weeks in Thailand on production for another travel series. • reliving my first third-world solo trip in Vietnam. • finding peace and creativity in Luang Prabang, Laos.

...all experiences that drip with the tantalizing prospect of organic value, not just for me but through the informative and experiential butterfly effect. It's why we read books and talk to our friends. Sharing stories, especially via such a mobile force like the web, makes for an even greater learning experience across international and industry borders. And if we don't analyze why this process isn't happening, it threatens to repeat until we come to.

Action Plan for the Neglected

Thus ends my soliloquy of why I'm thinking too much of how I can't think enough. And of course, one cannot ramble without a conclusive caboose. I plan to revive the elicited emotions from said unprocessed experiences and craft some posts that remain relevant to what's going on today. For instance, May 14th marks the presidential inauguration of Haiti's Michel Martelly, the wake of which provides a perfect moment for reflection of our meeting. Expect 'Lost'-esque flashbacks to experiences in Thailand that dictate my present endeavors. And as always, it's not my intention to provide a static, one-time commentary but instead evoke an elongated discussion through comments beneath. I hope you're on board with that.

Surely there are others that have too much to recall or process and are grappling with this feeling of neglect. What have you neglected to process, and in your opinion, is there only a small window of opportunity for intake?

*Definitions provided by AllPsych Online and Merriam-Webster.

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Let's Speak Haitian Creole!

My first language post arose from a desire to document and transmit the full experience of being in a relatively unknown culture: tribal Fiji. I didn't expect many people to find such a write-up relevant, but it dawned on me after hundreds of hits that lesser-known languages need some limelight, too. One could travel to Haiti and speak French; there would be virtually no gap in communication. But, I didn't have the luxury of French and instead opted for downloading some free software to learn Haitian Creole. Because I've spent the last eleven years learning languages that pack very few superfluous letters, the concept of learning French and not pronouncing half a word seemed absurdoix. Creole being a mix of many languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Taíno, and some African languages, it reads more phonetically and becomes more accessible than its' base.

Visit Haiti. And when you do, use your Creole. In the meantime, I'm going to attempt to process my four day rare experience through Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and Jacmèl.

Haitian boy in the Central Plateau, in Thomonde
Haitian boy in the Central Plateau, in Thomonde

The Basics

Alo: Hello Bonjou: Good morning Kòman ou ye (pronounced co-mah-oo-ee): How are you? Mwen trè byen, mèsi: I'm fine, thank you. Mwen rele Lindsay: My name is Lindsay. Good evening: Bonswa Eskize mwen: Excuse me/Sorry Mwen regrèt sa: I'm sorry. Wi: Yes Non: No Mèsi: Thank you Tanpri: Please Goodbye: Orevwa

Driving around Haiti
Driving around Haiti

Getting Around

Ou ka ede mwen? Can you help me? Kijan pou mwen ale nan...? How to get to...? Direksyon: direction Mize: museum Taksi: taxi Otèl: hotel Kafe: café Mache (pronounced mah-shay): to walk Mwen ta renmen peye ak kat kredi: I would like to pay with credit card. Ayewopò: airport Estasyon: station Mwen gen kèk kesyon: I have some questions. Rezèvasyon: reservation Mwen pèdi: I am lost. Ki kote li...? Where is...? Mwen bezwen èd: I need help. Non ri a: street name Gichè otomatik: ATM

Man wearing a mask at Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti
Man wearing a mask at Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti

Conversation

Kijan ou rele? What is your name? Ki laj ou? How old are you? Mwen se ameriken: I am American. Mwen ta renmen...: I would like... Ki lè li fè? What time is it?

Playing in the waves on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti
Playing in the waves on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti

Learning While Speaking

Mwen pa konprann: I don't understand. M ap aprann Kreyòl: I'm learning Creole. Pale Angle (pronounced pah-lee ahn-gleh): to speak English Mwen vle aprann Kreyòl: I want to learn Creole. Mwen pa konnen: I don't know. Mwen pa te konnen li: I didn't know that. Sa bon pou konnen: That's good to know. Tradui: to translate Mwen pa ka li Kreyòl: I can't read Creole. Li difisil pou mwen pale Kreyòl: Speaking Creole is difficult for me. Ou trè sèvyab: You are very helpful. Mèsi pou fason ou ede m avèk Kreyòl mwen: Thank you for helping me with my Creole. Kòman yo di...an Kreyòl? How do you say...in Creole? Sa sa vle di...? What does...mean? Mwen ap sonje: I will remember that

Painted numbers on the outside of Edeyo school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Painted numbers on the outside of Edeyo school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Numbers

Youn: one De: two Twa: three Kat: four Senk: five Sis: six Sèt: seven Uit: eight Nèf: nine Dis: ten Onz: eleven

Girl at the blackboard at Edeyo School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Girl at the blackboard at Edeyo School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Time

Jodi a (all 'di's are pronounced tzi): today Demen: tomorrow Ayè: yesterday Midi: noon Lendi: Monday Madi: Tuesday Mèkredi: Wednesday Jedi: Thursday Vandredi: Friday Samdi: Saturday Dimanch: Sunday

The Central Plateau of Haiti
The Central Plateau of Haiti

Develop Vocabulary

Etazini: United States Tanperati: temperature Vyann poul: chicken Pwason: fish Vyann bèf: beef Dlo: water Byè: beer Soulye: shoes Manto: coat Chapo: hat Grangou: hungry Vit: quickly Bra: arm Janm: leg Tèt: head Lajan: money

Practicing my Creole on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti
Practicing my Creole on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti

And once again, you're now as fluent as I am! Doesn't take much. Put your skills to use and visit. It's the best way to learn a new language, and it's something Haiti needs: your presence to develop an honest perspective on a country that is richer than we recognize.

All photos © ProjectExplorer.org, 2011

Piecing Together an Understanding of Haiti Today

Piecing Together an Understanding of Haiti Today

This weekend came and went, and I never left my couch. My camera bag - meticulously packed for three hectic days across three cities - lies useless on the bedroom floor; memory cards untouched and road snacks un-nibbled. For the second time in a row, our assignment in Haiti has been postponed due to civil unrest and political instability. I don't really know what's going on there at the moment, and with the one-track mind of sensationalist mass media focused solely on Egypt (and the Super Bowl, I guess), I'm finding it hard to understand this new situation, which has red alerts and closings already resulting from the anticipated nation-wide chaos.

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Mentally Preparing for Haiti on the Earthquake Anniversary

Mentally Preparing for Haiti on the Earthquake Anniversary

With every assignment, my job is gaining more meaning and thrill, becoming increasing moving and educative. From researching Frida Kahlo to cutting videos on Nelson Mandela, I've been diving further into pivotal, global issues. And though - technically - our upcoming trip to Haiti is a freelance assignment to document a medical non-profit, I'm going in the capacity of a filmmaker and an indirect educator. For the past month, I've been taking in knowledge of old Saint-Domingue like a sponge, and I'm hoping to include you, my ever-enlightening audience, in this pursuit of awareness.

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Photoblog: Final Crew Meal at Mexico City's W Hotel

Flashing back to the June Mexico trip with ProjectExplorer.org, I thought I'd memorialize a fantastic project-closing meal we had at the W Hotel in Mexico City. We relaxed after a hectic day of capturing on film Mexico's complex and difficult history. It was a well-deserved and tasty spread. [All photos were taken by Vijaya Selvaraju.]

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Enjoying Myself

Me Enjoying Myself

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

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